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tv   MSNBC News Live  MSNBC  March 19, 2011 2:00pm-3:00pm EDT

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sit idly by, either as civilians are killed. >> the reality on the ground tells a very different story. kernel gadhafi continues to defy the world. his attacks on civilians go on. we will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures. >> with u.s. allies taking the lead president obama is being briefed on developments while he is in brazil. >> our consensus was strong and resolve clear. the people of libya must be protected and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency. >> the latest from benghazi shows tanks approaching the city have stopped as thick, black smoke rises from the rebel stronghold. with me right now from cairo, egypt is nbc's richard engel. richard, from your perspective,
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from your vantage point, how optimistic is the arab world that they can stop the violence toward civilians in libya? >> this is a, you have to understand what's going on in libya in the context of the wider middle east. the middle east is going through an incredible period of flux with revolts and uprisings and revolutions from north africa stretching all the way to the arabian peninsula. all arab governments are in the cross hairs right now, very unpopular with their people. there have been successful revolutions here in egypt and tunisia by participating in this offensive, by participating on the side of the libyan people arab governments in a way are deflecting attention away from themselves and trying to show to their own people that they are supporting innocent civilians. they are supporting those who want to go out in the streets and demand more rights and demand more democracy even if ironically the governments
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aren't allowing those same kind of movements to take place in their own countries. >> and what do the rebels want out of all of this? what is their ultimate goal? >> the rebels in libya clearly want to topple gadhafi's regime and they felt that they were losing, that they had lost momentum. this has been going on for five weeks now. in the first few weeks i was talking to the rebels they thought it was just a matter of days before they would be crossing the open desert and rolling triumphantly in their 4 x 4 trucks and in taxi cabs into tripoli as conquering heroes. what happened, however, was as they moved out into the open desert in those arbitrary vehicles they were killed quite ruthlessly from the air by gadhafi and gadhafi launched this counteroffensive that brought him today inside benghazi than saw the first street-to-street fighting since this conflict began. now radically changing the
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dynamic the west has finally intervened militarily. just this small military action from the french but all indications are this is just the start of a much broader military campaign and will that turn the tide? the rebels certainly hope so and they hope that if they get this air cover that they didn't have on their first drive to tripoli that they'll have it now and continue their offensive. >> and, richard, the -- there are a lot of people from other countries in libya desperate to get out. what's the status of these refugees? >> there have been people fleeing by the thousands since yesterday from benghazi heading east toward the egyptian border and it must be said some of those were also rebels according to witnesses as gadhafi's forces today -- yesterday approached benghazi and then today entered benghazi themselves. thousands of rebels were getting into private cars and heading out of the city and there was a fear that without an
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international intervention that the rebels would quickly lose all of benghazi. the rebels say now they have, however, fought off gadhafi's forces and managed after a very difficult day with maybe -- maybe 30 people killed, perhaps more, in benghazi, itself. they've managed to hold on to the city but aside from the people of benghazi, aside from the rebels, there are thousands of ordinary people who now see themselves facing an aggressive army by gadhafi facing rebel movement and now international intervention and simply want to leave the country and most of them are heading in this direction toward egypt. >> richard engel reporting from cairo, thank you. and al jazeera has been covering this conflict since the beginning. right now they're live over libya. let's listen in to al jazeera's coverage here for a moment. this is al jazeera international. >> they know the tanks, the four tanks that were attacked or are reported to have been attacked
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probably were involved in the assault on the city just hours ago. >> we describe benghazi as the opposition held city of benghazi. what about the opposition fighters? are they dug in if you like in benghazi itself? if you look at social media sites there is rumor and counterrumor as to whether they're actually in the city waiting for gadhafi's forces to attack them or whether they've actually fled eastward. >> well, i haven't seen lot of fleeing of opposition fighters. i've certainly seen ordinary people fleeing from their homes in the western part of the city which came under heavy bombardment. it was a built up area that was an area where there are not just fighters but ordinary people, men, women, and children. and we heard a letter being read out earlier on as a press
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conference in tripoli from gadhafi saying he wasn't going to attack his people. >> men, women, and children are the primary concern when the united nations decided to act the thing they said was the cease-fire must happen immediately and must protect the civilian population of libya. nbc news chief correspondent of the daily rundown chuck todd is traveling with the president in south america. we're just getting news now that the defense secretary robert gates is delaying his trip to russia because he has the situation to deal with. how prepared are we? how involved might the united states become in the action in libya? look, over the last week plans were developed, where the administration, both the president asked the pentagon to come up with plans to help enforce and assist in a no fly zone if this resolution was
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going to pass. they knew the wording and the question, how are we going to assist, clear, over the last couple weeks? we have moved assets into the mediterranean, naval assets in particular. so there is obviously something, a role they're going to play. we know about the logistical role and intelligence role they're playing which is the flying of the awacs planes over libya to identify targets and confirm where these folks are but the question is, are there going to be more action that u.s. military assets are going to take beyond intelligence gathering and i think we'll find out more in the next few hours. the delay of secretary gates' trip to russia tells you that. >> president obama actually addressed the crisis in libya there in brazil when he was with brazil's president. let me play part of that. the people of libya must be protected in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians our coalition is prepared to act and act with
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urgency. secretary of state hillary clinton was asked about this when she was in paris as well. the interesting thing is they're talking about protecting the civilian population a day after. for instance in yemen there were dozens of protesters killed by a sniper there. is this going to be -- is it going to put the obama administration between a rock and a hard place when it comes to what may turn into similar action in other middle eastern countries? >> well, there was a reason why they made this decision to have this be an international coalition to get this united nations resolution because if they acted on their own it is american foreign policy and it brings up the exact policy you're talking about when there is violence in bahrain and yemen that the united states is going to act in some sort of ad hoc coalition in libya without the support of the international community, with the support of the arab league. then suddenly policiwise it may do just that but that is why in
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the case of libya by getting the u.n. resolution, by getting the support of the arab league, and having nato, that's the cover there. that's the model going forward. and i would be surprised if you see that model, them somehow move away from that model when dealing if this ends up being a humanitarian crisis. this libya model is the obama doctrine. this is what he ran for president on. this is what he has been talking about rhetorically since he took office and he is putting it action. >> chuck todd traveling with the president. thank you very much. appreciate that. msnbc military analyst retired army colonel jack jacobs joins me now. when we're talking about the effectiveness of bombing tanks, is that enough to keep gadhafi's forces away and to buy the rebels some time to regroup and strengthen their forces again? >> well, maybe half of that.
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the best thing to use against tanks is an airplane. a tank can't defend itself. the top is relatively soft with the least amount of armor and we have precision instruments designed to knock tanks out. they are at the mercy of aircrafts and anybody who has air superiority will be able to take out any tank it wants to. second, will this stop gadhafi? it might keep his forces out of benghazi at least for the time being. third, is it going to help the rebels? i think ultimately no. the rebels need a lot more than not being threatened by gadhafi's tanks. they need weapons, ammunition, training, people. they need a strategy which they don't have and they need good leadership. they have none of those things. developing it is possible but it is going to take more time i think than anybody is going to give them. >> we just heard chuck todd again reiterating the importance to the united states that this was an international action.
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it was action that was spearheaded by the ferrrench. they were the hawks from the get-go and recognized libyan rebels as being able to talk for the libyan people and then we saw the united nations go forward with the resolution. i've just received in, from the news wires now, russia saying it regrets the decision by western powers to take military action in libya. is that surprising to you? >> no. what surprised me is that the french and i mean the russians and the chinese abstained and the u.n. security council, about resolution 1973, which then permitted it to pass. they've been against western intervention in any area in the western hemisphere, in the eastern hemisphere and they told the united states, both the chinese and russians have told the united states repeatedly we don't want any new guys going into libya under any circumstances.
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they do not like to see the projection of european power. they have economic relationships. >> is there any chance that russia and china now having abstained from that security council vote would try to intervene? no. they will try i think in the back door to try to alleviate whatever pressure is being put especially if this lasts longer than 48 or 72 hours or so i think they'll be working very hard to get the united states and its allies out of there. >> incredible video coming to us from libya now and we're also hearing calls, again, just crossing the news wires that the international red cross is demanding that everybody in libya go in and allow medical staff and ambulances to have access to those who have been wounded in the fighting. we'll keep our eyes on the development. a live report from tripoli just after this. time for the your business entrepreneur of the week. brendan woolridge and john were
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the focus of the foreign intervention in libya is centered around the rebel held city of benghazi. but gadhafi forces are still operating out of the western city of tripoli where government supporters are converging on the international airport trying to deter a possible bombing. we want to go to nbc's jim maceda in the gadhafi stronghold of tripoli. jim? >> reporter: this morning gadhafi's forces pushed and punched through the defenses set up by the rebels in the southwestern part and approach to benghazi despite all of the declarations made by gadhafi's government that there would be no more military operations after yesterday, friday. that there would be a cease-fire immediately. it turned out that today was an extremely deadly day because of the attacks by pro-gadhafi
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forces in the rebel capital. hospital sources saying at least 26 individuals were killed. at least 40 were wounded in today's fighting. at this time, forces now seem to have pulled back on the -- to the outskirts of benghazi but it is not at all clear whether that was in reaction to the no fly zone or whether it was the usual tactic used by pro-gadhafi forces to punch in and then retreat only to go forward again and engage the rebels. french planes as we said are now in place. the question now is how will moammar gadhafi react to what is clearly a new chapter in this developing situation? jim maceda, nbc news, reporting from tripoli. back to you. >> former u.s. ambassador to egypt and israel edward walker was president of the middle east institute and assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. ambassador, good to see you today.
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>> how are you doing? >> secretary gates has now delayed at least for one more day his trip to russia. russia is now taking a stand and appears to be balking on the u.n.-led effort to stop the violence against civilians in libya. how problematic is russia's obs tin ens about what is happening with france and other western nations taking the lead on this. >> the only problem russia can cause now is if we need to have another u.n. security council resolution to up the ante. i don't think we'll need t the last resolution gave us all the flexibility we needed to take care of gadhafi's ground forces. the russians abstained on that resolution so they already had their shot and i don't think that it's going to need another resolution to go forward. >> the french made the first attack here. they have apparently hit four tanks and perhaps another military vehicle at this point. there are at least half a dozen
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countries that have pledged resources and are moving now military equipment into the region including the united states. it was very important to president obama and to secretary of state clinton that this not be an american-led mission. why is that? >> well, they wanted to make a very clear line in the sand separating this action from the invasion of iraq, which very few people in europe supported or nobody in the arab world supported. so this was carefully orchestrated by the obama administration. i think effectively so. to make as big a difference between what we're doing today and what we did in iraq. >> will it lessen the tight spot the united states is already finding itself in because of similar actions taken against civilians and other middle eastern states that are allies of the united states? for instance yemen you had 46 people killed by a sniper yesterday while they were out demonstrating to change the
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government. in bahrain a similar story. saudi arabia the king there is trying to make overtures to keep the violence from happening but these are all allies of the united states and the war on terror important to america's missions and yet they're going through changes. >> yeah. what the united states has done is it's set the model in libya for any other actions. and that model demands, requires, security council action. you will not get security council action to go into yemen or into bahrain or into any other country. largely because the arab league certainly will not support it. now gadhafi does not have many friends in the arab league and so he was very vulnerable on this account. the others are not. >> ambassador walker, good to talk to you. >> thank you. >> thank you for lending your expertise. coming up we go live to london for more on britain's role in this u.n.-led force over libya.
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italy's prime minister silvio berlusconi is now proposing to use a nato base in italy as the command center for all the operations against moammar gadhafi's forces in libya. he thinks that it should be the nato base at naples and he says for the time being italy is making the bases available if they request it if military intervention is possible. meanwhile the united kingdom is also taking a strong partnership role in this action. we're monitoring the latest developments from our london bureau. where do things stand in the uk? >> we're getting pretty strong indications here now that the british are likely to be engaged along with the french in libya relatively quickly i think. what we do know is that the prime minister is very shortly set to chair the british equivalent if you like of the president's situation room. they call it cobra, cabinet office briefing room a and it is
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relatively unusual for a prime minister to chair a meeting of cobra on a saturday evening so i think that gives you some indication of how engaged the british are and that they, i think, are likely to see british forces involved relatively soon. as i say, some clarification, too, on those reports that seem to have come from al jazeera, the four tanks were destroyed by french fighter jets. french media reporting a french source saying several libyan armored vehicles were destroyed by french fighters but not saying clearly what kind of armored vehicles they were but saying they were destroyed and a french major quoted saying that a pilot clearly identified in one case at least the pilot clearly identified a libyan military vehicle as pro-gadhafi. we are also hearing the exclusion zone will be or is 60 by 147b miles around benghazi and there are also efforts involving the british to have a naval blockade off the coast of
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libya. so as far as developments, we'll wait to see what decisions are made at that meeting that the prime minister is about to chair. >> and as things stand right now there are a handful of countries that are moving assets into that region but so far as we understand it the united states has promised to limit its involvement to support roles especially for the french and united kingdom. correct? >> yeah. that's right. senior british government sources earlier this week were telling me that they didn't think that anything would happen and obviously it has developed quickly with the u.n. resolution. one of the things that one official was saying today is one of the crucial changes is the u.s. decided to back this move. many other countries involved, canada saying fighter jets are now in the region though they may take some time to be prepared to be involved. the italians offering seven bases.
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so it is a coalition of countries. >> thank you so much for the reporting there from london. we continue to keep our eye on as you describe it the fast moving developments in libya and retired general barry mccaffery joins us with his perspective on how this might influence the actions of gadhafi's forces right after a quick break. my hair flowing with softness and shine. as nature intended. [ female announcer ] someone's been doing the herbal! the new herbal essences collections.
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got an advanced degree in technology. it's been working out -- more muscle and less fat. it's only been two years, but it's done more in two years than most cars do in a lifetime. welcome back to msnbc. i'm contessa brewer. french war planes fired the first shots over libya today taking out reportedly four tanks or armored vehicles just outside benghazi. about 20 french planes are focusing on a 90-mile radius around the rebel stronghold and a naval blockade is now in place. the u.s. military says american forces are poised to join the effort but there are no plans for u.s. ground forces to enter the region. defense secretary robert gates has delayed his departure to russia until tomorrow so he can manage the situation here at home. president obama's watching the developments from brazil, which
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is the first stop on his three-nation tour of latin america. >> the people of libya must be protected and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act. and act with urgency. >> the latest from benghazi shows tanks approaching the city now have stopped and thick, black smoke is rising from the rebel stronghold. the international red cross is calling on all sides to avoid civilian populations and to respect international humanitarian law. allied forces are moving fighter jets and war ships into position now around libya and the united states has more than 40 f-16s at the air base in italy along with five war ships now in the mediterranean. from there, americans can fire guided cruz missiles and french planes are already in the skies over benghazi. france is also sending an aircraft carrier to the region by tomorrow. denmark has sent half a dozen
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f-16s to the nato air base in sillica and the uk has tornado jets for ground attacks stationed at bases in cypress. italy is proposing using the nato base in naples as the command center for the coordinated military intervention. let's bring in nbc news military analyst general barry mccaffery. just a question here. if they're targeting armored vehicles or tanks what does that have to do with enforcing a no fly zone? >> you went right to the heart of the matter. the no fly zone was a meaningless political gesture that would in no way protect the libyan people. remember, the no fly zone over southern iraq, saddam hussein slaughtered thousands of them. so now the french and the brits will apparently start striking ground vehicles. that may make a decided difference in the way this war turns out. >> general, secretary of state hillary clinton was asked today whether the ultimate goal is driving moammar gadhafi out of
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power. she would not go that far. what she said is once we go in, once we start taking action, we change the environment and she intimated that it may be possible that those around gadhafi change their minds. do you think that's likely to happen, that people who have propped up gadhafi for years, some of them for generations, that they might look at this and go, maybe it's time to forego our support of this man? >> you know, secretary clinton is a very sophisticated diplomat, very experienced public policy person. i think a lot of this is fuzzy, political rhetoric to disguise the fact that we don't want to write down in public, articulate our goals. what are our goals? to stop the armored artillery which will slaughter the libyan rebellion? that by the way is going on in tripoli suppressed by gadhafi's forces and cities all over libya including the western part of the country. it's not just benghazi. >> did the international
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community wait too long before getting involved then if they want the rebels to grab the upper hand? >> well, the quick answer is yes but i'm not sure that is the important question. the important question is, are there vital u.s. national security interests at watch in libya? 2% of the world's oil, this is now a tribal conflict to some extent. if we're interested in freedom and democracy, what about yemen, what about bahrain? what about iran? so i think all of us would agree a laudable goal is bringing down gadhafi and his cruel, murderous regime. the question is do we have the guts to say that's what we're up to and then apply appropriate military and intelligence measures to carry it out? >> secretary clinton laid out three compelling american interests in making sure that gadhafi is stopped in his current actions. one she says that he's taking clear actions against americans and american people around the
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world. that he had a decision to give up nuclear weapons in 2005 and an opportunity to join the international community and he chose not to. she says because of the ferment in this region that the countries that border libya are in danger because of these actions. among other things do you think at this point, i mean for instance a naval blockade, what does that really do to stop the violence against civilians in his own country? >> well, again, almost nothing. these are political gestures. by the way, the libyans represent zero threat to gigantic egypt off to their east with their massive armed forces. you notice the arab world supposedly is backing this but i don't see any engagement at all from the saudis, the very modern air force, the egyptians, and others. so again, i think some of this is muddled political rhetoric to disguise the fact that we don't want to tell our own population we're intervening in another tribal operation in africa but
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we're fearful of using ground troops and so we're going to have some unspecified less lethal involvement in all of this. >> that was her reason number three in fact that the arab league and gulf council had called on the united nations to take action, that that was unprecedented. it was an historic request. >> complete nonsense. where are the egyptians? where are the saudis? i hear the rhetoric about the vote on the arab league but the egyptians had three f-16 aircraft. why aren't they doing this? >> in the list of the aircraft and military assets i see moving into the region there is not one middle eastern country that makes this list. general, good of you to join us. >> allegedly the uae is involved. the same group of people essentially that suppressed the shia uprising in bahrain. >> all right. we'll keep our eye on that and see if it changes in the days to come and, general, you've been particularly insightful. thank you so much. >> very good. >> so washington makes it clear
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it's not a unilateral mission. it is not even an american-led mission. and secretary of state hillary clinton is insisting the u.s. is going to support the coalition and take all necessary measures. >> the world will not sit idly by while more innocence civilians are killed. the united states will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce resolution 1973. we are standing with the people of libya and we will not waiver. >> nbc's mike viqueira is with secretary clinton in paris. mike, i presume that you heard general mccaffery's skepticism there about how effective this really is about the lack of cooperation from the arab coalition at this point. was she asked about that today? >> she was. she almost makes the geo political argument and almost sets forth a new doctrine if
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that's not over stating the case. you, too, in your conversation with general mccaffery and you touched on it. the secretary said, i thought it was fascinating, we are interested in strategic partnerships with other arab nations. not with standing the fact that there are a limited number of arab nations involved in this at this point as you and general mccaffery outlinld, the fact that she would outline that as sort of a principle in this i thought was very interesting. she also, this was in response to a question i had asked her here in paris, you know, she said we didn't -- we did not lead this. which is an extraordinary circumstance. consider that the people in paris who gathered at this hastily arranged summit by president sarkozy included the prime ministers of canada, great britain, president of france, prime minister of italy, leaders of the arab league, other nato countries, ban ki-moon the secretary general of the united nations, were all here and the united states was represented by the secretary of state, not the
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president, who is obviously on a prescheduled trip to latin america. but, still, the fact that the secretary went out of her way to use the phrase "we are supporting these countries in their military efforts" and indeed the first elements of this have not been u.s. military aircraft although it's quite likely as you outlined that there are going to be a considerable number of u.s. military assets aircraft or not brought to bear before all is said and done in this. but we did not engage in any unilateral action in any way, which fits into the narrative whether you buy it or not that the administration has put forth all along and that is they cannot be seen as pulling the strings, even the western powers at large. >> right. >> when this is essentially an african, an arab conflict and a largely muslim nation. >> but i guess the agreement on the part of international partners to go into libya at this point is less surprising given moammar gadhafi's status
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as an international bad guy. >> right. >> but when you look at what's developing in bahrain, for instance, or in yemen where 46 civilian protesters were killed yesterday by a sniper, there are already questions and there were in the news conference after the secretary spoke today questions about whether there are partners in the middle east that are going to be held to the same standard of protecting their civilians. >> and that's exactly right. as these dominos if you'll forgive the expression have continued to fall in north africa and the middle east it's the same questions and the same dilemma that faced the administration over and over again. what role do you play? do you walk that line between interfering in another country's internal affairs as general mccaffery put it in this case a tribal war, tribal civil war with libya? or do you, you know, step forward in defense of democracy and in defense of other principles that the secretary outlined in response to that question i asked earlier that you touched on. >> right. >> you know, including the fact
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that we can't allow libya to thumb their nose at the stated goal of the international community. mike viqueira, thank you very much for your reporting there from paris, france. and again, i want to go back to the video we were just showing you, brand new video we've just gotten in from benghazi. this is today and you can see some of the celebrations there. and these are rebels who would have a reason to celebrate if they are finally getting some help from the international community. they had asked several weeks ago for the international community to at least enforce a no fly zone. they were driven back to benghazi in part because of the air attacks they were suffering at the hands of gadhafi forces. so again, some of the reaction from the rebels in benghazi now. a quick break and we'll be right back.
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around the world nations are sending military assets now to the middle east surrounding the area of libya.
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the french have taken the first action targeting tanks or armored vehicles there in libya and the response on the part of rebels in benghazi has been cheers. nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard edge is in cairo now. what do the rebels really need to regain an upper hand? >> well, that is a big question. the rebels certainly are welcoming what happened today. they thought in the early hours that benghazi was going to be overwhelmed, that their revolt would effectively be snuffed out by gadhafi's forces. now there has already been some or at least one french air strike and more coalition forces are gathering across the mediterranean. but protecting the civilians, protecting the people of benghazi, preventing gadhafi's forces from moving in and creating some sort of access to
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humanitarian supplies, that certainly does help the people of benghazi but doesn't necessarily help them win. gadhafi does have supporters in tripoli. he has supporters about halfway between benghazi and tripoli. they have air support now and more is on the way but doesn't necessarily mean they'll march over to tripoli and take over this regime. general mccaffery earlier mentioned southern iraq and the no fly zone. there was a no fly zone and a defensive shield similar to this although this one appears to be more extensive in both northern and southern iraq for a long time but it wasn't until american ground troops actually stormed into baghdad that saddam hussein's regime was ultimately toppled and gadhafi has made it clear just like saddam he has no intention of going. >> by the way, former president bill clinton said just a couple weeks ago, and insisted that those who say that no fly zones are ineffective are just wrong,
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he said they can be effective and at least influential in what develops afterwards. the secretary of state said today, richard, that arab participation in the action in libya is absolutely crucial. general mccaffery had pointed out there is no arab participation at least when it comes to action. i mean, take for instance egypt which mccaffery called out by name. is there any way they're in a position to contribute right now? >> ah, they absolutely would be in a way to contribute. i'm in egypt, i've driven the road between egypt and the border with libya. it's full of egyptian tanks. if egypt felt threatened by libya they could send tanks over the border and be in benghazi in a matter of hours. it is not doing that. instead what we've seen is the arab world giving the west, giving the united states political cover. the fact that the arab league
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asked for this international intervention helps the west. so many wars in the middle east over the last ten years or so have been seen as western powers or israel attacking an arab nation and by the arab league reaching out and giving its support and actually asking for an intervention, hopefully there is going to be a way of undercutting that argument that it won't be seen like the gaza war when israel is attacking gaza or the lebanon war, again, israel involved in a war with hezbollah or the iraq war where the united states attacked iraq, attacked saddam hussein's regime. here it would be the middle east asking for it but it doesn't seem that the middle east is willing to go up and do it themselves because, yes. they certainly have the assets here in egypt, saudi arabia does little else but buy arms from western powers, particularly aircraft so it certainly has a very large arsenal that it could also employ richard engel reporting from
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cairo, thank you very much. we'll take a quick break here and get you caught up today on the military strategy behind this international action after this. nnouncer ] is your current denture cleanser missing something? now you get a cleanser with scope freshness. new fixodent plus scope ingredients. cleans and kills germs that cause odors to your dentures. new fixodent cleanser plus scope ingredients. time to mix it up with new philly cooking creme. it'll make your chicken creamier, dreamier, with lots of flavor.
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breaking news now. the french have confirmed that their fighter jets have destroyed a number of military vehicles in libya. they say armored vehicles and tanks. the report from al jazeera is that four tanks were destroyed. this is video of those french pilots preparing earlier today for the military strike. this came, an international agreement after gadhafi's forces broke the cease-fire, fired on the rebel stronghold of benghazi earlier today, and we know that there has been significant military action now with the french taking the lead. let's bring in nbc news military analyst general mccaffery and msnbc military analyst retired army colonel jack jacobs who are both joining me. general, let me begin with you. the united states has a number of ships now in the mediterranean, five if my count
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is correct here. let me show you a map of where they're located in the mediterranean and tell me of what use can these ships be action against gadhafi's forces? >> well, u.s. naval power and air power flying out of europe could have a decisive role to play if they got the go ahead from national command authorities. u.s. navy has at least one carrier battle group that i'm sure can cross egyptian air space more than 40 fa-18 fighter bombers, 40 or so f-22 stealth fighters up in europe and of course the navy has immense capacity with tomahawk missiles to strike air defense and other fixed targets. so if usair power is employed, naval power, it'll be a huge factor. we're already running to command and control. they talk about berlusconi volunteering naples. that's nato's south command headquarters already. that's where it's going to get run out of.
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and basically the nato command and control structure will be what runs the war. >> it seems very generous of berlusconi to offer up nato's base there. let's go to the map of libya that shows where the rebels currently remain in power. they lost a lot of ground in the last week and the united nations took some quick action once it decided to take up the issue but it's been weeks of dawdling as gadhafi's forces regained an upper hand, pushed them back. so here is where they are in red where rebels still hold power. benghazi is really the most significant city there. what happens now? what do they need in order to start fighting back against the government forces? >> well, they need a lot of time, a lot of weapons, a lot of ammunition. they need training. they need a lot of people. >> are they going to get any of that from international forces? >> i honestly don't think so. i think no matter what we do, what the allies do to stop the assault by gadhafi, i think that the rebels need a lot more work and a lot more help before
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they're ever going to be a formidible force. it's terrible to say this sort of thing but this is mostly a show of force, solidarity by european and middle eastern allies and i'm afraid not much more. they're doing a great job of destroying tanks, command and control, air fields even, aircraft of gadhafi, but in the end the rebels need a lot of things that can't be delivered to them by precision-guided munitions. >> so at some point, general mccaffery, do you anticipate some country whether it's france or arab nations, they're going to have to send in ground troops and consultants and a lot, if the rebels are going to succeed in their mission? >> well, contessa, it's hard to imagine how this is going to play out. first of all, gadhafi is not going anywhere. his sons, the key members of his tribe are fully committed. they have nowhere to go. secondly, they're at greatest risk being outside the city.
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so his armor has to get into the states some point. otherwise france and the brits, very capable air forces will start picking them off. one of the other questions in my mind is who would imagine that the saudis would actively intervene and say, even though the libyans tried to kill their king, would actively intervene in another arab country to promote the cause of liberty? same thing goes for the egyptian military. you know, we have to see what gadhafi does. he may well plunge right into these cities and try and finish them off before significant military power is brought to bear. >> general mccaffery and colonel jacobs, thank you both very much. we continue to stay on top of the developments coming into us from libya and around the world. we'll have more after a quick break right here on msnbc.
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all necessary measures. that's the promise from american leaders. breaking news from libya.
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